THE Indian festival of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birth of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom and prosperity in Hindu mythology, who is also recognized as the god of new beginnings and the remover of obstacles.
Also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, the festival is widely celebrated in India and Nepal, as well as by the Hindu diaspora in other parts of the world, including the United Arab Emirates.
The festival is celebrated for a period of 10 days and its date varies depending on the lunar calendar, but it usually falls in August or September. This year, Ganesh Chaturthi begins on Tuesday.
To celebrate, some families keep a Ganesha idol in their home for a period of one and a half to ten days and invite their family and friends to visit them for darshan or prayers. Several temples also erect colorful pandals open to the public, some of which house idols up to 20 feet tall.
The beginning of worship is called pranapratishtha, which is a ritual to invoke life into the idol.
The following are called shhodashopachara, or ways of paying homage.
These include daily morning and evening prayers, as well as offerings of flowers, fruits, incense and sweets, including modak, a dumpling considered one of Ganesha’s favorite dishes.
Other observances include the chanting of Vedic hymns and Hindu texts, as well as rituals such as anointing idols with red. sandalwood dough.
At the end of the stipulated period comes the visarjan or immersion, during which the idols are paraded through the streets accompanied by music and dance, and are transported to nearby bodies of water where they are immersed. This ritual represents Ganesha’s return journey to his heavenly abode, Mount Kailas, where his parents, the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati, live.
Faced with hundreds of thousands of idols thrown into rivers, lakes and ponds, Indian authorities began to regulate immersion day due to its impact on the environment.
Several idol makers now create figurines from biodegradable materials such as clay, rather than plaster of Paris, while some families immerse their statues in a barrel of water at home.
Updated: September 18, 2023, 9:09 a.m.